Does the thought of running in public bring you out in a rash? Do you wish you could get fit, but can’t bear the thought of people looking at you and judging? Here’s how to overcome your fears...
The sun is shining and everywhere you look, women are jogging in the park, or heading to the gym in their lycra sportsgear, confidently showing off their slim, toned limbs.
You long to join them. It would be lovely to get fitter and slimmer especially now summer is here.
But you don’t dare.
Instead, just the thought of running for the bus fills you with dread because you know you’ll turn puce and start panting like a dog, and everyone will stare at you.
Many of us wish we could get fit and shed a few pounds but we are simply too embarrassed to try. In fact, a study carried out by the charity Sport England found that two million fewer women than men do sport or exercise regularly.
That was because a whopping 75 per cent of women who want to exercise more are worried about being judged over their appearance and ability.
Fitness expert and personal trainer Laura Williams says: ‘Taking up exercise can feel daunting. Feeling like you might be judged is natural but the reality is it is unlikely, particularly these days when gyms, pools and classes are full of people who come in all shapes and sizes.’
Laura says that in her experience most people in gyms or exercise classes are far more concerned with their own appearance to be judging others.
But she says there are some simple ways to overcome your fears.
Pick somewhere friendly
Laura says: ‘If you feel inhibited, look at the environment you’re exercising in. If it’s an unfriendly exercise space, shop around for a new one. If it only offers high-intensity classes and the level of fitness seems very high, switch to somewhere which offers more variety.’
Talk yourself into it
Now summer is here and the pressure is on to wear skimpy clothes, the thought of stripping off to exercise can make us more stressed than ever. Laura says we can overcome this fear by ‘talking’ ourselves into exercising. She says: ‘Focus on your primary purpose for taking up exercise and keep your expectations low to start with.’
Get a buddy
Laura says: ‘Find an exercise buddy — someone who feels the same way as you, or a friend you can have a giggle with in the changing room. This will help reduce the pressure.’
Keep going for 30 minutes
Half an hour into any exercise session, hormones called endorphins will kick in and make you feel much better.
Laura says: ‘Thirty minutes into any exercise session you’ll feel as if you have dusted off any cobwebs mentally and physically.
‘Those feelings of apprehension about what others think about your body will have disappeared. And, waistline aside, think of the boost in mood and huge rise in self-esteem you’ll get from a new healthy habit.’
Edited by Julie Cook
‘I compared myself to everyone in the gym’
At 5ft 3in and 13 stone, I felt huge. I longed to exercise and lose weight but I was too ashamed.
I dreaded everyone looking at me and I felt awful compared to younger, slimmer girls at the gym.
Then one day I thought: Enough’s enough.
I decided to try exercising without anyone realising I was doing it.
I went for walks on the beach where I lived. Then I started walking a bit faster. As the days passed I felt fitter and my waistline felt trimmer.
Then a friend suggested we go to the gym together. With someone else to chat to I soon forgot about what people thought and simply got on with exercising.
Now I’ve lost three stone and I feel so much healthier. If I can face exercising, anyone can.
From Jamie Roberts, 37, of Littlehampton, W Sussex
Top tips for getting active
*Do something you love — dance, take the dog for a walk, play with the kids.
*Don’t think about what you look like, focus on what your exercise will do for your health and wellbeing.
*Exercise with a friend or join a group event, like a British Heart Foundation walk, a run or bike ride. No one will look at you in a crowd.
*If you really can’t bear to exercise in public, invest in a fitness DVD. We love Davina Toned in 10 with Davina McCall.
*Keep at it. Results don’t happen overnight, but you should start to notice a difference in three weeks.